In our continued effort to communicate with you about the facts and realities of the school district, this letter is offered in response to recent letters to the editor.
Ten months ago in September 2018, we learned from our Annual Unaudited Actuals Report (i.e., a required state report of all school districts when closing the financial books on the previous school year) that our reserve funds were not sufficient. Since that time, we have provided five in-depth Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documents, informative letters, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Interim Financial Reports, monthly financial reports to the ACUSD Board of Trustees, and our Cost Savings Plan submitted to the California Department of Education (CDE). All of these reports and documents tell the truth.
The fiscal year for California public schools is July 1 – June 30. The annual budget is developed in the spring and adopted by the Board of Trustees in June for the following fiscal year. Through a process of discovery, led by Jared Critchfield, our chief business official since July 1, 2017, we uncovered facts that were not previously known.
To be clear, here are the top 8 reasons why our reserve funds dropped to a low level and why the projected ending fund balance had the appearance of looking healthy in the past:
1. Revenue (income from the state) was inflated by significantly over-reporting students’ average daily attendance (how the funds are generated) in the 2017-18 budget.
1. The OpTerra energy conservation project was not budgeted properly in 2016, leaving out $1.5 million of the $10 million project.
2. Expected energy savings were built into the 2017-18 budget before ground broke on the OpTerra project and well before any cost savings could or would be realized. As of June 2018, the District has been realizing energy savings.
3. Deficit spending was a problem in 5 of the past 8 years. During the past fiscal year, the District did not spend more than it received in revenues.
4. AT&T was overcharging for utilities costs.
5. Ongoing maintenance costs to address our aging facilities is a significant challenge.
6. Rising costs statewide for employee pension contributions (STRS and PERS) is a significant challenge.
7. Rising costs for Special Education, an underfunded program nationwide, is a significant challenge.
The good news is that the first five reasons have been thoroughly addressed. I accept this responsibility, and with our wonderful team of leaders and support staff, we have taken steps to correct the problems and are moving forward as we should. Our 2019-20 budget is a positive budget and we expect to meet our reserve funds requirement by June 2020.
For more details on all of these points, you may go to: https://www.amadorcoe.org/departments/business/financial-reports/ https://www.amadorcoe.org/district/superintendent/ https://www.amadorcoe.org/departments/business/frequently-asked-questions-3/
Thank you for your ongoing support of this essential work, on behalf of all of our current and future Amador County Public Schools students. If you have questions or feedback, as always, please feel free to contact me at 209-257-5353 or Mr. Critchfield at 209-257-5375.